SoulTrain

FOTOFRIDAY: Summer, Like the Lake Lily, Will Fall

Posted on: Friday, September 30th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

One month ago to the day, the lakes (the lucky ones!) were abloom with these indigenous lilies that take your breath away and beg loudly to pose in the sun.

The lovely White Water Lily, so common on MN lakes and vital to their ecosystem, has now ceased blooming and begun its descent into, well, fall. My kayak has lots of lily friends, so we hang out quite often. They host a great environment for meditating (meaning: catch a tan…and some vitamin D). Who needs the trendy lotus, wherever they are?

I snapped this pic with the iPhone 13 and did a bit of editing later. I still find myself in discussions (debates?) of 35mm, film, digital, phone camera brands, what have ya. Sure, my opinions can make a modest splash like the waves around the lilies. But in the end, a good shot is a good shot.

IMHO, this is a pretty good shot. FBOW, I have hundreds of lily portraits. The lilies always shout, “Take a picture of me.” Then the ones over there shout louder, “No! Me!” And so it goes. They all deserve their moment. And I love staring at the images later, when the blooms have begun to sink slowly to the muddy bottom, rather like a SAD reaction to fall…

But hey, we’ve got the pics to reminisce. And remind us that this whole annual upheaval remains as natural as the lily’s fragile cycle. Did you know these blossoms each last only one day? Well, now you do!

The seasonal changes can feel almost violent here in MN. We try to like the drama; helps us know that time is passing. Like life itself. So seize the day. And snap that picture.

Speaking of weather violence, the BreakAway staff sends love and hope to the people and nature of Florida. Sanibel…Captiva…the Keys… Manatees, pelicans, dolphins showing off alongside our sailboat… So many still-palpable memories. And surely many fine pics, dating back to my first visit (for a spring break) in 1980…

May all that precious nature somehow survive and revive. Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Picture Roulette…Returning to College

Posted on: Friday, August 26th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

A new student steps through the historical arches and into the metaphorical portals of her life-changing BreakAway for higher education.

In my world, the mind is racing, the desk is a neglected mess, and this sunny day screams for some overdue yardwork. So I let my puter roll like a shot machine to choose this FOTOFRIDAY. Imagine my surprise when, out of 70,000+ digital images, the Gods landed on the August 2015 weekend I took my favorite (and only) son to college at Princeton.

Cosmic? Just this morning, my favorite (and only) daughter left to fly away to college at Lewis & Clark (Portland). I was not a part of this posse—just one of the many perks and pains of a broken family. My house seems quiet and empty already, though I try to avoid the verklempt. But no matter what, I STILL BELIEVE IN EDUCATION. Emphatically so.

Learning. It’s complicated. And getting complicated-er. Thanks to Covid, more than 50% of the students in MN high schools are now wa-a-a-a-ay behind standards for math and well, everything. Meanwhile, Biden is wiping out $280 billion in student debt. Nice. For those with the lucky timing to qualify—not me, not my kids, no one I know. Education costs a lot.

Is it fair? Of course not. Life is not fair. College teaches that. And so much more—the most memorable and meaningful having little to do with books, and more about inspirational teachers, best friends that last forever, card games and cold pizza at midnight, and mastering the art of juggling competing demands and emotional thunderstorms.

College remains, without question, one of the ultimate potential BreakAways of a lifetime. Imagine: 4 years of Ivory Tower living and learning, somewhere away from home, with new besties and lovers and beer bashes at your fingertips. Oh sure, there are risks and jerks and a million things that can go wrong. But smart students learn: It’s what I make of it.

That’s what BreakAways are all about. Most of us envy you these youthful learners. So hey, students: Take this precious gift seriously (moreso than yourself). Open your minds to weird opportunities and people. See the world. Change the world. Turn those roots into wings and help fly us all into a better future.

We’re counting on you!

PS And above all, have fun.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Cheers to the Humble Kayak!

Posted on: Friday, July 29th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

The swift, spacious Bayliner runabout of my future remains on hold. Until then, a kayak always offers a dreamy ride.

Kayaking is booming. And why not? They’re eco-friendly, easy to schlep around, provide exercise, and promise a delightful time for most anyone with two arms and sense of … balance.

On this summer evening, I expected a boat party invitation (or two). But alas, folks were out of town, out to dinner, or running out of the frenzy that erupts during those early giddy weeks of boating season. I knew what to do: Jump in and paddle out into the warm setting sun.

Oh sure, I missed the friends and laughter and booming tunes. But I instead savored a simple, solo bliss. And there was little risk of feeling lonely, as the local loon couple stopped by to warble hello before soon flying south for their annual snowbirding BreakAway.

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Confessions from a Summer Sabbatical

Posted on: Thursday, July 21st, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Summertime…and the livin’ is easy. (I should really trademark that…) 

Yowza! A month has flown by with nary a rant, snappy FotoFriday, or challenging jabberwocky. No wonder the landlines and faxes have been rattling; the piles have been tumbling. Well, as the youth say today, “Sorries!” It appears we here have been smoking our own Kool-Aid. Please know the inspirational backlog WILL get attention. But in the meantime…

  • Summer IS the social season…so jump in and hang on!

Sometimes, these fun-in-the-sun opportunities can become deliciously daunting obstacles to work, to chores, to…who cares? Said obstacles include lazing with the offspring. Jaunts to old haunts. Grooving with nature. Melt-your-mind sundowns and full-moon cruises. Grad parties where the real hootin’ begins after the cake {not keg} is gone. And best of all—whether at all-day music fests, faraway hometowns, or bucolic docks—the reunions of old friends. Nothing better.

Yep, BreakAway ditches the 2dew lists and shuns the ole’ rolodex when the pontoon party spontaneously pulls up. I mean, isn’t that what we really preach here in this passion project? Breaking away matters more than keeping up with the inbox. Even the interns agree! (Or so their emojis suggest…)

  • A quiet word from a sponsor: Purpose

Work is real. Purpose is important. And aspirations kick ass. We don’t mean to become a symbol of shirking. Seriously! (End of serious message.)

But really, if life is short, summer is a snap. So protect your priorities. Chase your bliss. As Mr. Ray (the cantankerous, hilarious, and wise-as-owls Maitre D’hotel who schooled countless of us hospitality pros) would say, “I’m the luckiest man in the world…because I have so many friends.”

Family, first of course. And then…Friends make life beautiful! It’s good to have people. So one ground rule of my summer games is simple: Never say no to a social invitation. To quote the St. Paul Saints: Fun is Good!

  • Not to worry…BreakAway updates aplenty await!

We will catch up. We will survive. We are excited about new contacts, buzzing opportunities, and an almost-urgent wealth of ideas and topics. To tease out just a few…

ReWorking (the series) will tell all about Casual Fridays morphing into Home Fridays…and summer Fridays off!

…and then offer updates on the work-at-home (R)evolution…the 4-day workweek movement…employers finally blessing baby & family leaves…and more!

And for the kids (and their parents), as Covid wanes, we’re witnessing a wave of gap years, live-at-home reboots, and a rethinking of education and lifestyle options.

  • Embrace today; tomorrow will wait

One message still rings loud and too true: A person never knows just how many days/years life will promise. (Just ask us cancer survivors!) So seize the play. Retire now and then. Seek and capture your preferred BreakAways when in reach. You’ll thank yourself, and your Gods. You’ll feel better. And we (if not Mr. Bossman)will still love you!

WHEN (not if) tomorrow comes…Please watch for backfills, updates, breaking stuff, revised top copy, more killer photos, new carousel combos, and emphatic permission to board whatever boat floats you to your happy place.

Thanks for listening. And for your patience. And above all,

Follow the light…

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FOTOFRIDAY: Savor Your Sacred Spaces

Posted on: Friday, May 20th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Sunsets always impress at Sutherland Park in Sioux City—that’s in Iowa. 

How many times have I gathered with friends to throw frisbee, swill beer, play guitars, sing songs, take pics, kick off reunion opening ceremonies, hug through closing ceremonies, and (of course) watch the sun set? How many times have I done variations on those themes with my own kids or…alone?

Who knows? But the number would be staggering. And each visit feels sacred; I still travel to Sioux City often to visit my parents and others, and no visit there is complete without a BreakAway to that park. I make time, no matter the flurry of reality, and feel a profound gratitude for simple priorities and spaces.

The park has a history, naturally. In a way hilly town, this park sits atop one of the highest elevations and once had a functioning water reservoir underneath it, before water towers. Then the name changed—along with a few trivial details. But otherwise, it’s just a huge, grassy, glorious, flat space with a view of forever. And that includes Nebraska, South Dakota, endlessly rolling hills, and more.

Worries blow away there, while memories suddenly swirl inside the head, heart, and soul.

Is this heaven? Yes, and it’s Iowa. It’s also just a park. A nearly-forgotten place. And it is sacred. Please stop by your sacred spaces soon.

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ReWorking: LinkedIn Okays Career Breaks!

Posted on: Sunday, March 20th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Work/Life Hacking | One comment

Employers allegedly want neat, linear work histories. But most lives, especially those well-lived, more resemble a beautiful stack of abstract experiences.

Monster-networking SM site LinkedIn shocked the world on March 1 by suddenly—and finally—including career breaks as a viable way to describe the times that you were doing other things than working for MSFT (who owns LinkedIn). While most people would question the actual significance of LI, this is still both shocking and outstanding news.

LI even offers 13 options to describe your BreakAway, such as travel (yes!), bereavement, and caregiving. We’ll see if they add more over time, like joining the Great Resignation. Meanwhile, LI reports that “51% of hirers say they are more likely to contact a candidate that provides context about their career break.”

This development feels about, oh, 55 years late. But we rejoice in small victories—and this may represent a paradigm shift of sorts. So go ahead, be honest and update your profiles, y’all. BreakAway has always insisted that any employer worth working for will embrace people with interesting and well-rounded lives. Maybe the Linky world is catching up…

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A Weary World Loses A Zen Master

Posted on: Monday, January 24th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment
We all seek light, and often find it in faraway people and places.

Most people have never heard of Thich Nhat Hanh. But for some of us, just knowing about him became life-changing. He died about a week at his home in a temple in Vietnam at age 95. Over the course of his long life, he became a famous and influential Zen master with a devoted worldwide following.

My meditation classes—which I’ve done on and off for years—were based on his approach to Zen and living, and taught by a teacher who changed careers to dedicate her life to studying his way and becoming a leader. His lessons of “mindfulness” transformed modern thought and countless lives.

He became known for many things, including:

·      His books, poems, teachings, and appearances

·      His vocal resistance to the Vietnam war, and all wars

·      His on-the-ground efforts to rebuild Vietnam’s villages and families after the destruction

·      His decades-long exile from Vietnam for opposing war and oppression

·      His nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize by his friend and follower, Martin Luther King

·      His organization of dozens of monasteries and retreats, known as Plum Village, a quintessential destiny for a transformative spiritual sabbatical

If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.

  • Google, meet meditation

One oft-cited example of his reach and openness was his visit to Google in 1913 at age 87—in the thick of the digital information revolution rather antithetical to his beliefs. Fearless and honest in all occasions, he offered the crowd messages of an alternative approach exemplary of why millions found solace in his presence and very existence, “We have the feeling that we are overwhelmed by information…We don’t need that much information.”

  • A beautiful journey

To become famous and influential was never Thich Nhat Hahn’s mission. But to help others with the challenges of human struggle, serenity of mind, and world peace all but created the paths for him. Countless people followed.

I am one. The commitment and effectiveness of internalizing his teachings comes and goes, as perhaps with all pursuits and practices of inner contentment. But my life would be much emptier—and at times lost—without the guidance of his wisdom and those who help spread his understanding.

To put it into BreakAway-speak, Thich Nhat Hahn was an original unplugger. An inspirational one-world traveler. And a courageous soul willing to embody and advocate a life beyond worry, weariness, and work.

We have lost a BreakAway hero. We know he is resting in peace.

Nonthinking is the secret to success. And that is why the time when we are not working, that time can be very productive, if we know how to focus on the moment.

World Mourns Death Of Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk Whom MLK Nominated For  Nobel Prize
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FOTOFRIDAY: The Ghosts of NYE Past

Posted on: Friday, December 31st, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

  • A picture dances 1,000 words…so take pics, take breaks, and take nothing for granted.

This picture features my 2 perfect children. On New Year’s Eve, 2017, playing at sundown on a pristine beach on St. John, USVI. The theme here might be, “If you’d have told me…” The punchline is always the same: Do it now…or at least ASAP.

  • If you’d have told me…they fly away

One was back from college out east, so I had seen that disappearance already. But the other was still at home, 6 years younger, and still (relatively) carefree and un-adult. Now she, too, is far away at college. So vacation scenes like that don’t much happen. Obstacles grow like seaweed over time.

  • If you’d have told me…cancer

Oh yeah. On this date, I had just finished several months of several kinds of tumor treatments. So the notion that I somehow managed a getaway during this period seems impossible. And indeed, the worst effects (long illness) politely waited until after returning home. Proving: I’m so glad we went. Even though I was scared to near-death.

  • If you’d have told me…family dissolved

Few things last forever. Including marriage. And when they conclude, that’s usually for the best. Still, that makes doing wild and crazy things (like ditching everything for island Breakaways over holidays…while you still can) more brilliant. Cuz you likely won’t do it when the family is no more. Yet, with any luck, good memories live forever. Trust the pics.

  • If you’d have told me…pandemic

With all the life ch-ch-ch-changes, epic breaks to escape winter become harder than ever. Then enters the trump (no not him) card: Covid. Oh sure, some people still travel. But at their own risk, and with much more effort and hassle. Aren’t you glad you went that place when it was relatively easy? I am.

  • If you’d have told me…passion still matters

Most likely, we’ve all simplified our goals and dreams over the past few years. And that’s….OK. Reality Resets happen throughout life. Sometimes from exterior forces (pandemic), sometimes from inside your own house. But please, keep the passion. Somewhere in your heart, your photo collection, and your hopes for better days ahead.

And when you…finally…arrive at that happy place again, take lots of pics!

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A Living Christmas Memory

Posted on: Friday, December 24th, 2021
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain | Leave a comment

  • Grandma’s Christmas Cactus Always Blooms Right on Time

The holiday season can rush the brain with memories of people lost, traditions faded, and places long visited but now disappeared. My childhood (and beyond) featured South Dakota grandparents and a feeling of never-grow-up freedom filled with fishing everywhere, flying kites in infinite fields, and working gardens and crops until you were dirty but awash in delight. And deliciousness.

As for Christmas? Picture sledding fast being pulled behind Grandpa’s old, gray tractor. Dancing in a circle around the tree singing songs in both languages with the Danish relatives. Solemn midnight, candle-lit services in tiny country churches followed by glorious feasting in the basement served up by beaming farm ladies.

  • Travel young, travel forever

Perhaps this is how I learned the art of travel, simple as it was. We packed the station wagon with my two brothers, at least one dog, and not much more. After all, everything we needed was already awaiting at the farms. And no matter where we lived at the time or what I was leaving behind, the spacious prairie brought that beloved feeling we all still seek and crave: Getting away.

Another world, just a few hours’ drive from home. Yet as remote and removed as if you just landed in another country. Indeed, the country can feel like another country. Far away. In the best possible way.

  • Where longing and endurance together take root

This Christmas cactus grew for ~60 years in my Grandma’s South Dakota pantry, until she finally moved out and passed shortly thereafter. The family appointed me as caretaker. And some 20 years later, I have several transplants in pots all over the place, including the original which now spans 4 feet. 

Regardless of location or attention, each plant blooms with uncanny punctuality throughout the holiday season. So I think of my Grandma often, relive those seasonal memories…and can almost smell her cookies baking and hear her fearless laugh.

This living keepsake, Grandma’s favorite pantry plant, both honors the vanishing memories while keeping them alive. Grandma would be pleased—and likely love the fuchsia color so much that she’d sew herself an apron in the same bright palette. And then cheerfully bake us more treats. 

Merry Christmas cactus!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Weird Weather Offers Ice Kayak BreakAways

Posted on: Friday, December 17th, 2021
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

If you conquer fear, you can do dangerous things worry-free! 

As I write this near St. Paul, news radio keeps telling us about yesterday’s weather records: Highest temperature; highest dewpoint; first December tornado(s); first December tornado and severe storm warnings.

Most peculiar. And, as some might say, just another sign that we are in the End Times. If so, there’s a certain relief in that—since most of us have found planning ahead perplexing lately, if not laughable. The 11 Commandments of Fiscal Fitness on this site offers a big-pic, life-loving approach to designing the future. Perhaps it’s time to pen the parody?

Meanwhile, this lake lover ditched the tech-desk and took advantage of recent unseasonal ice thaws—brought on by oddly hot days and strong winds. Only part of the lake turned back to water, so that’s the part I paddled on. Mostly. But as this pic shows, sometimes it’s fun to play close to the edge, too. I’ve even been known to paddle through the ice. Scary? Maybe. But the noise is amazing, rather like crashing a giant cocktail.

When I share pictures like these, some scold me, while others offer advice like, ‘I hope you were wearing a life vest!’ or ‘You better be in a dry suit!’. Nope. I trust my skills—and find stupider things to worry about. Anyway, if these are the end times, why worry about the future? Carpe diem! BreakAway on a sunny day and rejoice in winter warming!

And, now more than ever, keep the faith.

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